Fallen Air Force Tech Sgt. Approved for Medal of Honor


Fallen Air Force Tech Sgt. Approved for Medal of Honor

By Debbie Gregory

Air Force Technical Sgt. John “Chappy” Chapman is slated to receive the Medal of Honor, the first airman to receive the designation since the Vietnam War.

Chapman was alone in the thigh-deep snow of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan when scores of Al Qaeda fighters closed in on him. Drone footage revealed that Chapman launched a solo fight against the enemy after his unit had departed.

The Air Force combat controller and six members of Navy SEAL Team 6 were to helicopter-insert to direct air strikes and provide intelligence for conventional troops below them. But their intelligence was flawed, and instead of 200-300 lightly armed Al Qaeda fighters, they faced some 1,000 heavily armed fighters outfitted with heavy machine-guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery.

His citation reads, “From close range he exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds. His engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact.”

Unconscious, Chapman’s teammates believed that he had been killed in the firefight, but low-quality drone footage coupled with video feed from a C-130 showed Chapman alive up to an hour after his teammates left the area.

“It was really grainy. But there was still somebody up there fighting, and you could see that,” Kenny Longfritz, Chapman’s first sergeant at 24th STS, said of the Predator drone footage he viewed after the battle. There was no doubt in his mind, or among many others in the squadron, that it was John.

He would go on to kill more enemy fighters, engaging one al-Qaida fighter in hand-to-hand combat.

“As a daddy, he didn’t want to leave his babies,” his mother, Terry said. “But as a soldier, he wanted to go and serve his country and, as he said, ‘kick ass!’”